How to switch from Karate to Kung Fu

How to learn Kung Fu starting from a Karate’s base

Even if Karate has originally born from Kung Fu, it has taken a totally different path (read What is the relation between Karate and Kung Fu?) and for a practitioner, the switch could easier for certain aspects, harder for certain others.

Note – This article has been asked by one of our Core Course practitioners on Patreon (see how to attend our home study classes here Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course).

Before getting to the heart of similarities, differences and difficulties, it is essential to make some premises:

  • Kung Fu is divided into many styles (internal, external, etc.), the people who will better benefit from the path we are going to describe are those who are moving toward a “soft” one, like Tai Chi (Taiji, read What is Tai Chi and what is its purpose?)
  • Even Karate has a lot of different expressions (Shotokan, etc.), some harder, some softer but in any case, the difference with Kung Fu’s approach remains
  • With a minimum of commitment and adequate openness to change, the transition is quite simple
  • Who has practiced Karate for less than 6 months do not need particular preparation (this tutorial is for those who have a deeper knowledge of this martial art)
  • Here we focus on Karate but similar reasoning can be valid for many other martial arts (Japanese and not only)
  • In this article we do not intend in any way to compare Kung Fu and Karate with the idea of establishing which is better, it is a vacuous speech that does not interest us

A note by Master Kongling – In the particular case of 6 Dragons Kung Fu, what the student has already learned in other (good quality) martial arts’ courses will not be replaced. Our system integrates both hard (solid), both soft (liquid / fluid) approaches (read for example 6DKF’s interactions: from the strong blow to the light touch). In our school, we merge what is similar but we do not overlap what is incompatible, we simply flank it; it is for this reason that the path we are going to describe is useful also for our new practitioners.

Karate VS Kung Fu: 2 different approaches

Karate’s approach

Even if it is not a fixed rule, Karate typically prefer to opt for:

  • Strong and segmented techniques execution (even due to the inevitable muscle memory’s conditioning forced by the Kata study)
  • Linear force application
  • Solid structures

Kung Fu’s approach

Even here, it is not a fixed rule but (the soft styles of) Kung Fu typically prefer to opt for:

  • Uninterrupted flow with variations in terms of speed / strength intensity
  • Circular force application
  • Relaxed structures

How to switch from hard to soft movements

Based on what we have said, the question arises more than spontaneously:

How can a karateka become capable of exploiting the immense power of softness (read How to combine softness and power) if his setting is rigid?

A simple transitional path

The mental and physical change:

  • Relaxation – We have to get used to feel and control the relaxation level of each of our body elements, one by one (shoulders, etc.); in this case, Qi Gong and / or Yoga practice can be extremely beneficial (read /// Subscribe (it's free!) or Login to see this content ///)
  • Combat flow – We have to imagine the combat flow as an endless sequence, even with violent variations but always without interruptions (let’s imagine pedaling on a bicycle, what would happen if we started pedaling in jerks?)
  • Limit stiffness – We always have to aim at relaxation, limiting the rigidity only to the smallest action moments (eg. the impact instant of a punch, read How to punch (simple explanation)); in 90% of the cases the rule is that we start soft, we become rigid for an instant and then we immediately return to be soft (even will controlling a fall, read Everything you should know about breakfalls)
  • Be patient – In the beginning, it is not easy to learn to release power through softness and the temptation to impress energy through rigid motions is high but we have to resist; once we will get used to Kung Fu’s flow, we will experiment with a totally new type of strength / speed and we will never want to come back (read Hitting with softness)

Some of the best practices of 6 Dragons Kung Fu to find softness

In conclusion, here we have a selection of exercises that facilitate theswitch from Karate to Kung Fu:

In-depth video courses

In-depth articles


Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • How long have you been practicing Karate?

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

How to master 6 Dragons Kung Fu?

Are you searching for:

  • Daily training exercises?
  • Synthetic theory and concepts?
  • A step by step path from white to black belt?
  • A path (clear, consequential and gradual) designed to build real martial skills?
  • A direct contact with Master Kongling?

Go to our Patreon page and choose a training plan: starting from the Practitioner level, you will gain access to all this and much more.

Inside each Premium Lesson, you will receive the same teaching (practices, tips, concepts, small secrets and corrections) reserved to the live students of Master Kongling.

Important - Once a certain number of registrations are reached, no other participants can be accepted. For more information write to: [email protected].

Support us (1€ / month):